Spatial and disease ecology of the plains spotted skunk
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The eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius) is a species of conservation concern across much of its range in the eastern U.S. due to a range-wide population decline that began in the 1940s. The reason for the decline remains unknown; a combination of factors, including habitat loss, disease, and overharvest, may have collectively led to the population decline. As a result, a subspecies of eastern spotted skunk, the plains spotted skunk (S. putorius interrupta) has been petitioned for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Despite the petition for listing, habitat associations and other basic ecological assessments remain limited across the historic range of eastern spotted skunks, and especially within the range of the plains spotted skunk in the Midwestern U.S. To address current knowledge gaps, identify future research opportunities, and assess potential causes of the decline, we developed three studies on the plains spotted skunk. ... This body of work collectively fills knowledge gaps in the literature on plains spotted skunks, while identifying areas of future research needs. Future efforts should seek to locate and identify habitat and resource requirements for additional populations of plains spotted skunk to get a more complete understanding of the ecology of the subspecies. Additional landscape-level questions, such as the extent to which populations are isolated, should be assessed. Further, recognition of the high prevalence of cranial damage cause by skunk cranial worm underpins how little we know about the disease ecology of the species and suggests a need for further research on the topic. Together, such landscape and disease ecology studies are a necessary area of research for supporting successful and informed management.
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